Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A visit to Valle Del Encanto (The Enchanted Valley)

Located in the Limari Valley about 20 km west of the town of Ovalle, The Enchanted Valley (Valle del Encanto) is home to the largest collection of pre-Colombian rock art in Chile and is noted for having various archaeological petroglyphs and pictographs from the Molle culture dated from 100 to 600 AD, as well as traces of hunter groups from around 2000 BC. Discovered in 1946 and declared a Historic Monument Archaeological Monument in 1973, it is accessed by a 3 mile (5 kms) dirt track. The valley is a boulder strewn ravine in a rocky tributary canyon of the Limari River that allows low scrub and cacti to grow. At the entrance to the area, there is a small guard house manned by a very enthusiastic character. He not only expounded on the history of the area, he also donned an indigenous feathered headdress to help illustrate the Molle people, played a small flute type instrument with hauntingly beautiful melodies and cheerfully posed for photograph with us. The valley floor is divided into three sectors and as we drove to the access point for the first sector, I said to Tom that we would need to stop on the way out and purchase something from his small collection of memorabilia. We took a wrong turn and wound up in Sector 2 first. It seems if we stayed left on the main track we would arrive at Sectors 1 & 3, which makes no sense, but that’s the layout. After parking in the designated area and putting Winston on a leash, we walked the narrow trail following the small river, which at this time of year is simply a stream. The petroglyphs are distributed over many rocks and boulders, in a random fashion, along a mile stretch of the valley but in this sector, we had a hard time making out any of the art. We had read that the best time to visit the valley is around noon when it seems the sun doesn’t cast as many shadows so you can see the rock art more easily and depending on the time of day, some drawings may be lighter than others. Also, those that were carved in low relief are still clearly visible while others have been faded by erosion over nearly 2000 years. Well, in this sector we could only make out a little of the petroglyphs despite it being noon. Easier to find and more easily visible are the “tacitas”, stone cups similar to a mortar. These are found in large boulders with holes hollowed out, some quite large. It is believed they were used for storing and grinding food and in some of the rocks there were over 10 holes. However, because of the water that runs close by and erosion by wind and rain these holes are growing in depth and diameter and over time will catch more water and erode to large pools. Sectors 1 and 3 were much more interesting as far as petroglyphs were concerned. Here we saw many examples of carvings and drawings. The etchings are of geometric shapes, stylized human figures and faces, often with headdresses and eyes and some with antennas. Of course no one knows the why, what for, or meaning of the petroglyphs, although many locals point to the square heads, unusual accessories and antenna of some of the figures, as evidence of extraterrestrial contact. I remain skeptical of this theory. We spent a couple of hours climbing up and over boulders, crossing the stream and walking up hills exploring the different drawings and enjoying the silence and solitude of the place. Winston was excited that although kept on leash, he was allowed to be with us instead of having to stay in the motorhome. In addition, the entire time we spent there, only one other vehicle came in. As we left we stopped off to visit with the guard again, take a couple more photographs of the valley and we purchased one the small flute instruments from him, which he obligingly played one more time for us. This was an interesting detour inland and we are glad we made the time to check out the site.

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